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Trumpet

by Jackie Kay

The death of jazz trumpeter Joss Moody is a shock to his fans in more ways than one; it exposes a huge secret (known only to his wife Millie) that he, Joss Moody, is a she.

When Joss and Millie’s adopted son Colman discovers the truth about his father his confusion and anger forces him into a deal with a sleazy tabloid journalist. Millie retreats to their remote Scottish seaside cottage where she grieves and reminisces, while a bewildered Colman looks for answers to his resentment and anger.

This sparely written story is narrated by different characters in turn; old friends, the housekeeper, a funeral director, and a doctor (among others) – even Joss himself. Each voice has its own perspective on Joss and Millie and a picture is gradually built up of a couple whose relationship, founded on this incredible secret, find a way to live, work, raise a child, and stay in love.

Winner of the 1998 Guardian Fiction Prize, Jackie Kay's captivating novel delves into the inner workings of the human heart to reveal a complicated, and sometimes uncomfortable, story about love, grief, race and identity. Joss’s words to a confused teenage Colman illustrate the novel’s guiding principle perfectly: “My father always told me that he and I were related the way it mattered. He felt that way too about the guys in his bands, that they were all part of some big family. Some were white some black. He said you make up your own bloodline, Colman. Make it up and trace it back. Design your own family tree…..”

Irene Haynes

Published by Picador, 200pp.

Read our interview with Jackie Kay.

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